Ben Williams reports for MI6 from the 'Carte
Blanche' Meet The Author event held by The Times
at the Congress Centre in London...
Meet The Author Event Report
29th May 2011
Last night I was fortunate enough to attend
the Q&A session with author Jeffery Deaver to promote
the launch of the latest James Bond novel, Carte
Blanche. The Times held the ticket-only Meet The Author
event at the Congress Centre on Thursday evening.
Deaver, perhaps best known as a crime
thriller writer, with his Lincoln Rhyme and Kathryn Dance
series, might not seem to be the immediate logical choice
to write a James Bond adventure.
However, his novel The Garden of Beasts
won the Ian Fleming Steel
Dagger Award, awarded by the Crime Writers Association
Of Great Britain, and its story of an assassin, sent to
Berlin with the task of eliminating a senior Nazi officer
in the build up of the 1936 Olympics, has all the hallmarks
of a classic James Bond thriller.
It was during his acceptance speech for
this award in 2004, where he spoke passionately about the
influence of Ian Fleming on his life and career as a writer,
that he first came to the attention of Ian Fleming Publications.
Ian Fleming Publications later approached
Deaver to write a continuation novel, and the result, just
eighteen months later, is Carte Blanche.
Below are just some of the highlights of the
Q: What first interested you in James Bond?
Deaver: “When I was eight years old I picked up a paperback that my father
had been reading on his commute from work. It was a James Bond novel. I don’t
remember exactly which one it was now, but I do remember thinking that this
was the quintessential
adventure story. It had a linear, simple story of good versus
evil. There was no ambiguity, and in the character of James Bond
there was the archetypal hero.”
Above: Author Jeffery Deaver
with the 007 Carte Blanche themed Bentley Continental
Q: How much has Ian Fleming influenced you as a writer?
Deaver: “People don’t read books to get to the middle.
A writer’s job is to get you to turn the page and Fleming
had that. He kept his stories short and economical, used escalating
conflict and kept it lean. Oh, and did I mention the Bond girls?
Fleming had his finger on the pulse of what we like. Fine food,
drink and beautiful women, and this are essential. I think Fleming’s
philosophy was, although he never wrote this down, it is evident
in his writing, that writing books is all about you guys. And
that’s my philosophy, too. In the end you have to write
for your audience.”
Q: You are well known for your detailed research. In Carte
Blanche the details of the British security forces are
spot on. Can you give us an indication of how you research
your books and how important it is to your writing?
Deaver: “As a rule it takes me a year to write a book. The first seven
to eight months of that is writing the outline and research. It takes months
of careful planning and creating the structure. I do most of my research on
my own, through the Internet and through magazines and literature. Whilst I
do occasionally speak to people, I find that I don’t want their story
to interfere with the carefully laid out structure of my own. I may take notes
and use it for another story down the line, but usually I look for sources
that tell me what I want to hear!
Obviously detail is important, but it shouldn’t
be there for the sake of it. I have a rule: If it is there
to enhance the character or to further the plot, it goes
in. If it’s just there because I think it’s
cool, it has to come out. Every now and then I will receive
a letter pointing out a mistake, that how on page thirty-six
you said that there was a machine gun bolted to a rail
using a ¾ inch nut, but as you know they discontinued
this particular nut in 1937 and replaced it…well,
all I have to say to those people is: Get a life!
Above: James Bond creator Ian Fleming
After writing the structure and the doing the research, I spend
about two months actually writing. I find this eliminates writers
block. After all, you don’t get writer’s block if
you know what you want to write, and that is why the structure
is so important to get right. I often say there is no such thing
as writer’s block, only a block of ideas.”
Q: Was it difficult as an American writer taking on the very
English character of Bond? Did you find you had to make many
Deaver: “I wanted the experience to be seamless for the
readers. There will be two versions of the book, the British
one and the American one. In the British version, I have tried
hard to keep the grammar reflective of British books. For instance,
I use single quotation marks in speech. There are certain Americanization’s
that remain. For instance, I take the “U” out of
flavour or labour. However, there are certain things that I’ve
changed. In the States we say ‘counter-clockwise’ where
as here you say ‘anti-clockwise’ and expressions
such as ‘I should have done.’ We don’t say
that in America.”
Q: How difficult was it updating Bond to a modern setting?
Was it hard to update him and did you include his views on sex
Deaver: “I think that the most important thing is to like
our characters, and with Bond it is vital to love him. He may
be flawed, but these are traits we are so familiar with. Ultimately,
I wanted to go back to Fleming’s vision of Bond, so I created
a Bond bible, detailing everything I could about the character,
and what I found emerging from that was his personality. Bond
is suave and debonair but he is also dark and edgy. He is a man
who is prepared to sacrifice himself for his country. There is
a scene at the end of the novel Moonraker, where he discovers
the missile that Drax has gifted to England, doesn’t point
out to sea, but actually points to a place called London, which
some of you may have heard of. He is cut off from help and has
no way of warning, so he resolves to light a cigarette under
the rocket as it is being refueled, destroying it, but killing
himself. Obviously being Bond, he doesn’t have to do that
in the end, but he was prepared to. Essentially, I’ve tried
to make him as much like Fleming’s Bond as I can. He’s
the same sort of age as Bond was in Casino Royale; he’s
experienced. I kept a picture of Hoagy Charmichael next to my
keyboard as inspiration.
I think one of the things that Ian would say about the update
is ‘Did he have to stop smoking?’ Well, Bond isn’t
a non-smoker, he’s a former smoker and there is a difference.
One of the main reasons for this is simply tradecraft. I have
friends in the CIA, and one of the things they tell me is their
agents, or ‘assets’ as they call them, don’t
smoke, unless they are somewhere where it would be obvious if
they didn’t. Smoking draws attention to you, and that’s
the last thing a spy needs.”
Q: Do you have a favourite Bond film and
a favourite Bond book?
Deaver: “My favourite Bond
film and my favourite Bond book are one and the same: From
Russia With Love. I think it’s such a well-written
book and the fact that you don’t meet Bond until
something like sixty pages in is quite remarkable. It was
very innovative and fresh writing.
Also, to have this detailed
character study of Red Grant, this Russian assassin, for
the first part of the book, really builds the tension.
Which is why I like the film so much. I feel that it was
very faithfully adapted. The plot of From Russia With Love
is also very simple. The story is really just of this assassination
attempt, a chance to get revenge and also how it will discredit
the British, dreamt up by this Russian chess grandmaster.
had written plots involving the theft of nuclear weapons,
but here he also showed he could make a very simple
story engaging. The ability to do both is the real mark
Carte Blanche is available in stores nationwide in the UK. It
will be released in the USA on June 14th.
Many thanks to Ben Williams.
tuned to MI6 for more coverage of Carte Blanche all this week.